A Texas grand jury indicted a suburban Dallas police officer Wednesday on a charge of criminally negligent homicide for fatally shooting a black man during a traffic stop last year. The Tarrant County grand jury indicted Arlington Officer Bau Tran eight months after he shot 24-year-old O'Shae Terry in the Dallas suburb.
The indictment marks a rare criminal prosecution of a police officer in the historically conservative North Texas county. It could draw greater attention to a case that was largely overshadowed by another in the same month in which a white Dallas police officer
Tran shot Terry on Sept. 1 after another officer pulled the Forest Hill resident over on a registration violation. The officer told Terry she smelled marijuana and would need to search the vehicle, the Dallas Morning News reported. Body cam video shows Tran stays near the vehicle's passenger side door as the other officer goes back to her squad car.
After talking for several minutes, the footage shows Tran grabbing the passenger-side window of the SUV Terry was driving as it begins to roll up, yelling "Hey, stop!" Tran steps onto the vehicle's running board as it started to move, points his gun into the SUV and fires multiple shots. Terry later died at a hospital. The paper reported he had been shot four times.
A passenger in the car was reportedly uninjured.
Lee Merritt, an attorney for Terry's estate, said the indictment was "a huge relief" for his family but also less than they had hoped for. Shooting someone to prevent them from leaving amounts to murder, Merritt said during a November press conference.
"We are certainly happy that there will be a chance for some form of justice in this case," Merritt told The Associated Press. "But if anyone else had done this it would have been murder."
Criminally negligent homicide is considered a felony offense. A conviction can lead to a sentence of up to two years in state jail.
Police later said they found a Glock handgun with an extended magazine, 1.09 pounds of marijuana and 7 grams of ecstasy pills in the vehicle, according to the Dallas Morning News. Tran was placed on restricted duty following the shooting.
He was put on leave Wednesday until the administrative investigation into the incident is finished in the coming weeks, said Arlington Lt. Christopher Cook. In a statement released to CBS Dallas after the indictment, Arlington Police said: "The Grand Jury's decision, irrespective of the outcome, is viewed as an additional factual piece of information to consider by those responsible for the administrative investigation of this incident."
Tran's attorney, Randall Moore, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Moore has maintained that his client's actions were legal and taken to protect the public.